One advantage of staying in Eskdale is that, in a matter of minutes, you can travel from one type of landscape to another. The estuary and dunes of Ravenglass present a quite different face of the valley. Similarly the arc of coast, from Drigg to Seascale, and northwards, has always exerted a strong influence on the valley since prehistoric times. This, then, is a glimpse of the broad plains and doorstep coast that border Eskdale.Leave the valley on the road over to Gosforth, passing the Bower House Inn and up the hill towards Irton Pike. This conical top, recently deforested, is a good vantage point for views out to the coast and can be reached in 20 minutes from the roadside. Continue down the hill but take the right turn towards Wasdale just before Santon Bridge Inn, home to the World's Greatest Liar competition. This is, of course, a digression, but it is far more scenic, and contrasts the wild beauty of Wastwater with the gently rolling fields of the coastal plain in a more dramatic manner.Close to the foot of the lake turn left on the narrow road that winds through Greendale and Bengarth to Gosforth. At Wellington Bridge note the road to your right. This leads up to Blengdale, a small, quiet valley with lovely wooded walks. Just before you reach the village of Gosforth call into Walkmill Garden Centre, home to an array of shrubs, ornaments and bedding plants.
Gosforth Church is a 'must' stop. As well as having the finest Viking cross in England, it has fragments of two other crosses, one shamefully cut down for a sundial base in the 18th century, the 'hogsback' tombs, and Norman walls, pillars and carvings. There is a good booklet in the church that describes and interprets the many features.Gosforth itself is an attractive village with red sandstone houses adding to its character. There is Gosforth Pottery, up the hill, with some of the best pottery in Cumbria, and Gosforth Arts and Crafts close to the car park.
The next stop is SEASCALE with its broad sandy beach and extensive views. On a sunny day there is little that can better a stroll across the glistening sands, with the hazy profile of the Isle of Man floating on the horizon. Lewis Carroll was a frequent visitor, and Ruskin used to sketch the wild flowers here on his way back to Coniston. If you are a golfer then Seascale offers a fine 18-hole course and, yes, that circle of stones, next to the fairway, is prehistoric.
A few miles north of Seascale you will find the small village of Calder Bridge, which is now simply regarded, by many, as the turning for the hugely successful SELLAFIELD Visitors Centre, home to The Mighty Atom. With a dazzling new series of exhibitions and interactive displays this is a great day out especially if it is raining.
In stark historical contrast, however, just east of the village, hidden and largely unknown, is CALDER ABBEY. Founded in 1134, the present 13th century building has been described as 'the most beautiful of all our ruins'. You can catch glimpses of it from the riverside path, but to visit the abbey you will need to write to the administrator 2 weeks in advance.
Three miles further on is the market town of Egremont with the remains of its Norman castle perched high on a steep mound. The castle was built in 1120 by William Le Meschines, who also founded St Bees Priory and, more modestly, St Catherine's Church here in Eskdale. Readers of Wordsworth's verses will know the legend of the Horn of Egremont and the story of the young Romilly heir who drowned at the Strid of Wharfe. Still, that's enough history and literature - it's time to get our hands dirty.
Just outside Egremont is the FLORENCE MINE Heritage Centre, the last working iron ore mine of its type in Europe. Iron ore, known as haematite because of its blood-red colouring, has played a significant role in the industrial development of the western fells and coast since the Iron Age. The Centre tells the history of the ore's extraction and the miners - the 'Red Men of Cumbria'. There are also trips underground so you are well advised to leave the white tuxedo at home. When you return to the valley from Egremont, Seascale or Gosforth, pull into the side for a moment and admire the sweeping panorama of the high western fells from the coast - it is stunning, but, strangely, it's the landscape that no one ever seems to paint